Delaware Proposes Nation’s First Comprehensive Cyberbullying Policy

Statewide Policy Will Give School Administrators Clear, Enforceable Rules to Prevent Cyberbullying

WILMINGTON – This week, Delaware became the first state in America to propose a detailed, comprehensive cyberbullying policy that will be adopted by each of its public schools.  The policy, drafted by Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn and Attorney General Beau Biden, was formally proposed by the Delaware Department of Education and will provide schools with specific, enforceable rules to combat cyberbullying.

The proposed regulation is open for public comment until November 5, after which a final regulation will be issued by the Department of Education and all public schools will be required to adopt it within 90 days.  The regulation is the product of public hearings that Lieutenant Governor Denn and Attorney General Biden held throughout the state.

The cyberbullying regulation provides guidance to school officials in three important areas:

* The regulation provides a narrow definition of cyberbullying, which is that it must be uninvited and unwelcome electronic communicated directed at an identifiable student or group of students.  In addition, the activity must fall into one of three specific categories: speech that (i) interferes with a student’s physical well-being, (ii) is threatening or intimidating, or (iii) is so severe, persistent, or pervasive that it is reasonably likely to limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the school’s educational programs.

* The regulation provides that postings on certain mediums such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube will automatically be considered to be directed at an identifiable student or group of students, because the person posting knows that that posting is likely to be available to a broad audience in the school community.

* The regulation requires that the above standards be applied from the standpoint of a reasonable student of the same age and other circumstances as the victim.  This ensures that particularly vulnerable students receive a higher level of protection.

“Attorney General Biden and I put this policy together the right way,” Lt. Governor Denn said.  “We listened carefully to parents, school officials, and civil liberties advocates.  We carefully reviewed the evolving case law with respect to the free speech issues raised by cyberbullying.  And then we crafted a detailed regulation that is responsive to the concerns we heard, compliant with First Amendment case law, and usable by school officials.”